Friday, September 12, 2008

TBE Bar/ Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Andrew Krowitz on Parashat Shoftim

My portion speaks about the importance of being fair and just, especially if you are a judge. The idea is never to favor one side over another but to be open minded and to make sure you base your decision on all the facts around you.

I can really appreciate that advice. Take sports, which you know is a big part of my life. You may not realize this, but you are looking at one of the very few people on Earth who takes this idea so seriously that I support the Mets, Yankees and Red Sox.

Yes, it’s true. Officially, I am a Mets fan, but I also root for the Red Sox and the Yankees. OK, I admit that I root for the Mets if they play the other teams and that I root for the Red Sox if they play the Yankees. But if the Mets and Red Sox are out of the playoffs and the Yankees are in, which the Rabbi said it is OK to admit happens once in a while, I still enjoy watching the playoffs and the World Series.

This confuses people, especially relatives who don’t know which jersey to get me for my birthday. It’s too bad they haven’t come up with a cap that has all three logos on it. But my point is that there are many sides to any situation and to be a good judge, or simply a good person, you have to look at all the reasons people have different views. And learn from them. Not just in sports, but in life. And I think when you look at life that way, you also are happier for it.

My portion also says that it is wrong to accept bribes and favor one side over another. Obviously, Moses never watched an NBA game.

Because I am a baseball catcher, I get to know the umpires very well and I know how hard they try to be fair – even if I don’t always agree with their calls. In baseball, every play is in the hands of the umpire. If there is even a hint of favoritism it can be very bad for the integrity of the game. I plan to be an umpire now that I have finished Little League and I know that not even a free soda or a chili dog will get me to change my call.

My portion includes that famous verse, “Justice, justice you shall pursue.” The word “justice” is repeated twice. One commentator says that the reason it is included there twice is to remind us that it is important not only to seek results that are just, but to act justly in trying to get there. If an ump blows a call, the way to make it right is not to blow another call in favor of the other team. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

By judging sports fairly, it helps to make ours a more just society. It teaches kids about the importance of fairness, so that when they grow up, they’ll apply what they learn to the rest of their lives. For example, I can see how my rooting for the Yankees, Mets and Red Sox will, when I am an adult, help me to be more accepting of people with all different backgrounds.

I try to apply the lessons of my portion to my life already. One way is through my mitzvah project. As many of you know, I love all kinds of food, from sushi to every candy you can buy at the movies. But I also know that food is an example of how life is often not fair, because there are many people who live here in our community who do not have the choices that I have when it comes to what they can eat and who probably think that life is unfair because they often do not have enough to eat. That’s why for my Mitzvah project I am helping to organize food drives for Person to Person, an important agency in Fairfield County. Thanks to all of you who brought food donations with you today. I also thought it was very important to help another Jewish child become a Bar Mitzvah, so I am supporting an Ethiopian Jew in Israel become a Bar Mitzvah. It seems only just that I share some of what I have with others who are less fortunate.

I’ve learned about how to act fairly and justly as a Jew from my Jewish education here at Temple Beth El. And I have learned from my Aunt Stacey and from the Israeli soldiers who we meet every year here in Stamford how important it is to act fairly and justly even in the most difficult situations – even when fighting an enemy who is trying to kill them.

My family has inspired me to pursue justice. My dad was a lawyer for many years and my mom chose a career as a doctor where she helps other people every day. My family really does believe in doing the right thing even when it is not so easy, like when my Mom helps families in the middle of the night or on the weekends because they have a child who is sick. Many of you know how much my Papa Buzz suffered before he died this year. But you know, whenever we visited him at the hospital, he never complained that life wasn’t fair. He just kept working hard to get better and kept telling Zac and me that we had to keep working hard in school, do the right things in life and that if we did that everything would work out OK. I know that both my grandfathers would be very proud of me today.

Finally, since we will soon be voting for President, I think it is important to talk about how lucky we are to live in a country where we all get to decide who should lead us. I don’t get to vote but I have thought a lot about the election and have been supporting Barack Obama, but I know there are a lot of great and smart people out there who want John McCain to win (right, Cousin Fred?). There are very few places in the world where we could actually talk about these differences and that’s a big part of what makes the United States and Israel so great.

No comments: